What a wonderful time of year to be grateful for all the gifts and blessings in our lives! Good health. Employment. Family. Food. Shelter. So much for which to be thankful.

But if this is true, then why do so many of us criticize—rather than express gratitude—for the good things going on all around us? It seems the human condition is more comfortable, and almost conditioned, with voicing negativity toward our world than embracing it with gratitude.

I think about my own propensity to criticize. It has taken a deliberate attitude adjustment to begin reframing my thoughts toward a more positive, complimentary point of view. This adjustment takes practice; it is not automatic for most of us.

Our minds are designed to bring up those things we love (like warm chocolate cake or sweet puppies), as well as potentially dangerous alerts (like dark alleys or mean dogs). And there is a lot of good stuff between those two extremes. So, why is it that many of us seem to get stuck on the negative, and more importantly how do we become grateful people?

My theory about showing graciousness toward others has developed over many years of watching critical people and living near grateful people. I had an aunt who lived to be 100-years-old. She was loved by so many, having taught school for forty years. She was one of those teachers who could see the good in her students and draw that out of them. Her consistent pattern was to notice the good in almost everyone she met. It seemed difficult for her to talk about the obvious negative in someone, yet she could easily see the positive. I want that quality!

To overlook the obvious negative in others and see the positive is a true gift. I remember going to lunch or to the grocery with my Aunt Dot. She would comment to the waitress or the cashier about how nice they were to her. As I watched this, I remember thinking, “They are just doing what they are paid to do, and there is really nothing particularly special about the way this person served us.” However, it was interesting to watch how the “rather average” waitress or cashier would come to life with kindness after being noticed for doing their job—to my aunt’s satisfaction and gratitude. They would become better at their job! They would smile and attend to us more often, or be of more service in the store. And I could hear them say things as we walked away like, “They are so nice!” Just by association, I was included as being a kind person.

Graciousness is like this. When one person is kind, the whole group is transformed for the better.  When we point out the positive in the otherwise average environment, the world around us may become more civil, kinder, gentler, more humane. I long to be more like my aunt, to see the world through eyes of thoughtfulness. I wish to speak kindness into a culture that thrives on negativity and criticism.

This change of heart is exactly what Jesus has done for me, and can do for you. He sees more potential in all of us than we can see in ourselves. To respond toward others through the Lord’s kindness—which requires a whole new point of view—is us becoming more like Him. What a gift!